« ForrigeFortsett »
seems very probable from the Jesuits' Letters, and more from Chambers's little discourse, published some years ago;* but it is very certain we copied nothing from them, nor had any thing but Nature for our model. It is not forty years since the art was born among us;i and it is sure that there was nothing in Europe like it; and as sure, we then had no information on this head from China at all.i. I shall rejoice to see you in England, and talk over these and many other matters with you at leisure. Do not despair of your health, because you have not found all the effects you had promised yourself from a finer climate. I have known people who have experienced the same thing, and yet, at their return, have lost all their complaints as by miracle. P. S. I have answered Count Algarotti's letter, and his to Mr. Mason I conveyed to him; but whether he has received his books, I have not yet heard.
Mr. How, on receiving the foregoing letter, communicated the objection which it contained to the Count; who, admitting the justness of it, altered the passage, as appears from the following extract of the answer which he sent to that gentleman.
“Mispiace solamente che quella critica concernente i Giardini Inglesi non la abbia fatta à me medesimo; quasi egli dovesse credermi piu amico della mia opinione che della veritá. Ecco, come ho cangiato qual luogo. Dopo le parole mel tesser la favola di un poema. ‘Simili ai Giardini della Cina sono quelli che piantano gl’Inglesi dietro al medesimo modello della Natura.” Quanto ella ha di vago, 6 di vario, boschetti, collinette, acquevive, praterie con dei tempietti, degliobelischi, ed anche di belle rovine che spuntano quá e la, si trova quivi reunito dal gusto dei Kent, e dei Chambers,” che hanno di tanto sorpassato il le Nature, tenuto già il maestro dell’Architettura, diro cosi, dé Giardini. Dalle Ville d'Inghilterra é sbandita la simmetria Francese, i più bei siti pajono naturali, il culto è misto col negletto, é il disordine che vi regna è l'effetto dell'arte la meglio ordinata.” It is seldom that an author of a reputation so established (as Mr. How truly remarked, when he sent this extract to Mr. Gray) so easily, readily, and explicitly gives up his own opinion to that of another, or even to conviction itself; nor perhaps would Count Algarotti have done so, had he not been thoroughly apprized to whose correction he submitted.
* The author has since enlarged, and published it under the title of a Dissertation on Oriental Gardening; in which he has put it out of all doubt, that the Chinese and English tastes are totally dissimilar.
+ See Mr. Walpole's history of this art at the end of the last volume of his Anecdotes of Painters, when he favours the world with its publication,
# I question whether this be not saying too much. Sir William Temple's account of the Chinese gardens was published some years before this period; and it is probable that might have promoted our endeavours, not indeed of imitating them, but of imitating (what he said was their archetype) Nature.
Ix. M.R. GRAY TO MR. H. O.W. - Pembroke-hall, Jan. 12, 1768.
I was willing to go through the eight volumes of Count Algarotti's works, which you lately presented to the library of this college, before I returned you an answer: this must be my excuse to you for my silence. First, I condole with you, that so neat an edition should swarm in almost every page with errors of the press, not only in notes and citations from Greek, English, and French authors, but in the Italian text itself, greatly to the disreputation of the Leghorn publishers. This is the only reason, I think, that could make an edition in England
* As he had written on the subject, this mistake was natural enough in Count Algarotti.
necessary; but, I doubt, you would not find the matter much mended here; our presses, as they improve in beauty, declining daily in accuracy: besides, you would find the expense very considerable, and the sale in no proportion to it, as, in reality, it is but few people in England that read currently and with pleasure the Italian tongue, and the fine old editions of their capital writers are sold at London for a lower price than they bear in Italy. An English translation I can by no means advise: the justness of thought and good sense might remain, but the graces of elocution (which make a great part of Algarotti's merit) would be entirely lost, and that merely from the very different genius and complexion of the two languages.
Doubtless there can be no impropriety in your making the same present to the University that you have done to your own college. You need not at all to fear for the reputation of your friend; he has merit enough to recommend him in any country. A tincture of various sorts of knowledge, an acquaintance with all the beautiful arts, an easy command, a precision, warmth, and richness of expression, and a judgment that is rarely mistaken on any subject to which he applies it. I had read the Congresso di Citéra before, and was excessively pleased with it, in spite of prejudice; for I am naturally no friend to allegory, nor to poetical prose. “The Giudicio d'Amore” is an addition rather inferior to it. What gives me the least pleasure of any of his writings is the Newtonianism; it is so direct an imitation of Fontenelle, a writer not easy to imitate, and least of all in the Italian tongue, whose character and graces are of a higher style, and never adapt themselves easily to the elegant badinage and legereté of conversation that . sit so well on the French. The essays and letters (many of them entirely new to me) on the Arts, are curious and entertaining: those on other subjects (even where Y
the thoughts are not new, but borrowed from his various reading and conversation), often better put, and better expressed than in the originals. I rejoice when I see Machiavel defended, or illustrated, who to me appears one of the wisest men that any nation in any age has produced. Most of the other discourses, military or political, are well worth reading, though that on KouliKhan was a mere jeu d'esprit, a sort of historical exereise. The letters from Russia I had read before with pleasure, particularly the narrative of Munick and Lascy's campaigns. The detached thoughts are often new and just; but there should have been a revisal of them, as they are frequently to be found in his letters repeated in the very same words. Some too of the familiar letters might have been spared. The verses are not equal to the prose, but they are above mediocrity.
It is long since that I heard you were gone in haste into Yorkshire on account of your mother's illness, and the same letter informed me that she was recovered, otherwise I had then wrote to you only to beg you would take care of her, and to inform you that I had discovered a thing very little known, which is, that in one's whole life one can never have any more than a single mother. You may think this is obvious, and (what you call) a trite observation. You are a green gosling! I was at the same age (very near) as wise as you, and yet I never discovered this (with full evidence and conviction I mean) till it was too late. It is thirteen years ago, and seems but as yesterday, and every day I live it
sinks deeper into my heart.” Many a corollary could I draw from this axiom for your use (not for my own), but I will leave you the merit of doing it for yourself. Pray tell me how your health is: I conclude it perfect, as I hear you offered yourself as a guide to Mr. Palgrave into the Sierra-Morena of Yorkshire. For me, I passed the end of May and all June in Kent, not disagreeably. In the west part of it, from every eminence, the eye catches some long reach of the Thames or Medway, with all their shipping: in the east the sea breaks in upon you, and mixes its white transient sails and glittering blue expanse with the deeper and brighter greens of the woods and corn. This sentence is so fine I am quite ashamed ; but no matter! You must translate it into prose. Palgrave, if he heard it, would cover his face with his pudding sleeve. I do not tell you of the great and small beasts, and creeping things innumerable, that I met with, because you do not suspect that this world is inhabited by any thing but men, and women, and clergy, and such two-legged cattle. Now I am here again very disconsolate, and all alone, for Mr. Brown is gone, and the cares of this world are coming thick upon me: you, I hope, are better off, riding and walking in the woods of Studley, &c. &c. I must not wish for you here; besides, I am going to town at Michaelmas, by no means for amusement.
* He seldom mentioned his mother without a sigh. After his death, her gowns and wearing apparel were found in a trunk in his apartments just as she had left them; it seemed as if he could never take the resolution to open it, in order to distribute them to his female relations, to whom, by his will, he bequeathed them.
x I. M.R. GRAY to MR. Nicho LLs. Pembroke-hall, Jan. 26, 1771. I REJoice you have met with Froissart, he is the Herodotus of a barbarous age; had he but had the luck of writing in as good a language, he might have been immortal! His locomotive disposition (for then there was no other way of learning things); his simple curiosity, his religious credulity, were much like those of the old